TNT forced a tie for the top spot after turning back NLEX, 117-106, in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.
The KaTropa bumped their record to 6-1 with back-to-back wins and joined Rain or Shine at the first seed while the Road Warriors stumbled to a 2-5 card.
Despite squandering a 21-point lead in the second quarter, 51-30, TNT managed to remain composed and hold off the Road Warriors’ constant attacks until the final minutes of the game.
Terrence Romeo’s layup gave the KaTropa a 108-96 lead at the 5:15 mark of the fourth but NLEX threatened the buffer with Alex Mallari going on a personal 8-0 run to cut TNT’s lead to 108-104 with 3:49 left in the game.
Joshua Smith and Terrence Castro would give TNT the momentum back with two straight baskets for the KaTropa’s 114-106 lead with 1:52 left.
TNT head coach Nash Racela said he tried different combinations to counter NLEX’s run and he was able to find the right mix when he put in Romeo and Castro with Anthony Semerad playing the stretch four position.
“We just tried doing a lot of combinations today, Jayson and Terrence playing together and Tony Semerad playing the four because that’s something we will be needing in the future,” said Racela.
Another piece of roster adjustment Racela made was playing Smith for more than 34 minutes to keep a massive inside presence in the paint.
“We were very specific and very intentional in playing Joshua at least 30 minutes, and today he played 34,” said Racela of the 6-foot-10 290-lb Smith. “It was good and at least this early, it’s only his second game, he’ll get used to playing longer.”
Smith led the KaTropa with 24 points, 13 boards, and five assists while Semerad added 22 points on 6-of-9 shooting from deep.
Romeo added 19 points and dished out eight assists for TNT while Castro pitched in 10 points, six rebounds, and seven assists.
Arnelt Moultrie led NLEX with 31 points and 10 rebounds.
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